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Stocking Your Bar

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Three good reasons to skip the bars and have your own party this New Year's Eve: It's cheaper. The risk of getting a DUI is practically zero. And you can smoke. Maribeth , owner of 2527 , gives some advice on how to stock your bar, set the mood, and wake up feeling good. Make this the year you put down the PBR and try something with a little zip.

First, she says, get ready. Have your hardware handy. You wouldn't go into battle without your weapon, and if you're playing bartender this New Year's Eve, you need a well-stocked arsenal. Maribeth recommends a martini shaker, a strainer, a corkscrew, martini glasses, and champagne flutes. And, of course, plenty of ice. And don't forget the party favors.

"You've got to have your hats and noisemakers," she says. "It's New Year's Eve. When midnight strikes, you put on your hats, you blow your horn, and you let everybody know it's something different."

Once everyone has a hat, and the bar's set up, and everything's within reach, try sticking to a few simple drinks. Shooters are always a hit. A popular item this year is the Washington Apple: Mix Crown Royal, Apple Pucker schnapps, and cranberry juice to your taste. Shake it all up, and it tastes like a Washington apple. If that's too elaborate, go for simple Cherry Bombs: Mix Red Bull with Jägermeister or cherry vodka. The crimson energy drink should help make sure you make it to midnight. Keep your guests on their toes with espresso martinis.

"It's a sweet martini," says Maribeth. "You want vanilla vodka ­ Stoli or Smirnoff are good. Then some Kahlua, Bailey's, and espresso. Pour it over ice in your martini shaker, shake it vigorously, and strain it into a chilled martini glass. Garnish it with three coffee beans."

If you want to be Sinatra for a night, try nursing an old-school favorite while you pour for your friends: Mix some ginger ale and scotch. But if you don't have a taste for the whiskey, be careful what you choose.

"Try a single-malt scotch, an upper-end scotch that's been aged in a barrel," Maribeth recommends. "There are plenty of really pricey ones. Some are smooth and go down like silk, and some you have to acquire a taste for. Macallan 12 has been aged for 12 years in a barrel and it runs about 50 bucks a bottle. You can't go wrong with it."

And no New Year's Eve is complete without a midnight champagne toast. The sparkling juice can run from $10 a bottle at the supermarket to $500 at an import store. If you and your friends don't drink much bubbly, sometimes cheaper can be better.

"Asti Spumante, we all grew up on it, our parents drank it," says Maribeth. It's very sweet. For someone with an inexperienced palate, that's it. If you have $300 at least, Dom Perignon Rose is fabulous ­ it's fresh, sparkly, not sweet Š everything you're looking for in a champagne. A quality, fair-priced champagne is Moet Chandon's White Star. It's always a crowd pleaser."

And to make sure you start 2007 off on the right foot, make sure you're not just drinking booze. To avoid a hangover, make sure you hydrate.

"My suggestion with champagne is that you drink a glass of water for every glass of champagne. It helps prevent the bubbly headache. No matter what you're drinking, drink water too. And keep plenty of appetizers around ­ drink while you eat. Beyond that, use moderation. Don't drink too much."

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